“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe, or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” Said sci-fi author Arthur C Clarke
The search for life beyond Earth has been going on for years.
The stars above hold secrets yet to be uncovered, the search for alien life a puzzle that has captivated minds for centuries.
Astrobiology studies potential life beyond our world, a journey that blends astronomy, biology, chemistry, and geology. Could the answers we seek be closer than we think, a microbial life form waiting to be discovered in the depths of our planet?
Initial ideas of Aliens – extraterrestrial beings
In the 19th century, when astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli observed “canals” on the Martian surface, the idea of microbial life on Mars popped up. Though the canals turned out to be optical illusions, the possibility of water and life on Mars continues to be studied.
Later in 1977, a radio telescope in Ohio picked up a signal that shook the world of astrobiology – the famed “Wow! Signal”. The signal emanating from the direction of Sagittarius was a robust, narrow-band radio signal that persisted for 72 seconds.
Many scientists believe it to be a message from an extraterrestrial civilization. Yet, the signal has never been detected again, leaving its origin in mystery.
Our search for Aliens
In 1977 NASA sent out the Voyager Golden Records, which have a collection of sounds and images of Earth, including music, spoken greetings in different languages, and photos of humans and animals.
The probe is now more than 20 billion miles from Earth, and it will still take another 40,000 years for Voyager to reach another star. Nevertheless, it attempts to introduce life on Earth to extraterrestrial beings, if any.
Carl Sagan had said “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space, but the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”
What does science say about their existences?
The Drake equation, a mathematical formula designed to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilisations in our galaxy, is named after American astronomer Frank Drake.
The equation considers factors such as the rate of star formation, the percentage of stars with planets, and the likelihood of those planets being capable of supporting life.
It does predict the existence of 1000s of other civilizations in the Universe.
“Rather than asking how many civilizations may exist now, we ask, ‘Are we the only technological species that has ever arisen?’ “says Woodruff Sullivan, University of Washington
Curiosity for aliens & technology
The search for alien life has been given a boost by the advancement in telescope technology, such as the James Webb Space Telescope and the upcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which will be capable of detecting biosignatures on exoplanets and studying the atmospheres of distant worlds.
Aliens in fictional world
The famous phrase “Take me to your leader” is often associated with aliens, but it’s unclear where it originated. It’s been used in various movies, books, and TV shows.
The fictional creature “E.T. the Extraterrestrial” from the 1982 Steven Spielberg movie is one of the most famous aliens in popular culture.
Its popularity as a movie even helped develop a new research field called SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), which focuses on listening to radio signals from space to detect possible alien transmissions.
If we ever come into contact with alien life, one possible form of alien life could be a fictional form, for example, creatures adapted to extreme environments:
- Made entirely of energy or plasma rather than physical matter.
- Build from silicon or other elements rather than carbon.
- That exists as a form of software or a computer program, perhaps in a simulated reality or virtual reality environment.
It is essential to remember that all these examples of alien life forms are fictional and are currently not supported by any scientific evidence.
However, speculating and theorizing about possible alien life forms is an integral part of the quest to understand the possibilities of life beyond Earth.
The search is an ever-evolving journey, with discoveries and breakthroughs everywhere. From exoplanets to microbial life in harsh environments, the possibilities are endless.
In addition, scientists are making strides in understanding life beyond our world.